The Worlds of Art: Traditional and Crypto

7 min readApr 29, 2022

Art has come a long way since the days of the first cave painting. Artists now represent emotions, thoughts, creativity and ideas through digital forms of art, which in recent times have become the new norm. However, as with any newer form of art, skeptics and traditionalists still consider it only a more accessible but inferior form of art that lacks human touch. Regardless, digital art is widely popular and is now the most commonly used art medium for commercial art and design purposes.

Although they seem vastly different in their modes of creation and final appearances, traditional and digital artwork techniques have many overlaps. While traditional painting requires the use of physical mediums and tools, digital artists utilise technology to replicate these effects and create new and exciting ones with better yields. According to the latest annual Art Basel & UBS Global Art Market Report (2022), traditional art sales reached an estimated $65.1 billion, up 29 percent from previous year, but that figure combining auction and gallery sales, remains short of the trade’s estimated $68.2 billion peak in 2014.

The traditional art market is large and can be highly profitable. However, the valuation of art pieces remains a somewhat murky topic because for an art piece to be sold, it must be given a price. While the crypto art space is growing at an increasingly fast pace, critics challenge its ability to rival the traditional art market in function and efficacy. Digital art has been around since the advent of computers. Additionally, Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs) in the realm of art is not new. As early as 2017, players like CryptoPunks were already laying the ground for a rare art ecosystem in the crypto world. However, the significant challenge for digital art has always been proving rarity. By combining digital art with NFTs, artists are now able to create works that have many of the features of physical art and then some. Like a revelation, NFTs have taken the world of art by storm.

Early in the year, NFTs ignited an interest in digital art. The digital tokens — that are on the blockchain — created a brand new, albeit speculative, marketplace for digital content to be sold. This new technology behind crypto art and other crypto collectibles can be used to tokenize pretty much anything — from music, drawings, certificates and tweets to even articles such as this one. Since blockchain data can be distributed across a network of computers, there is no single central location where a digital file can be tampered with or altered. Hence, the immutability of the crypto arts. NFTs also act as a way of minting a piece of original content or collectible goods. In doing so, they act as an artist’s “digital signature” — much as how Picasso’s signature is used to verify the authenticity of his paintings.

This creates rarity in the marketplace and allows digital artwork to be sold in a similar way that traditional art is. An NFT includes a unique digital signature, which has information about who created the work, when the work was created and the conditions regarding a future sale. All of this information is registered on a blockchain. When the NFT is sold, the network verifies the information. This confirms that the digital signature belongs to a different owner. It is no different from having an expert authenticate and appraise a traditional art. Therefore, when it comes to NFTs as an art, there are specific aspects that make them expensive:

  • The reputation of the artist
  • The community behind the NFT
  • Status symbol that the NFT brings along
  • Pop culture
  • Technology used
  • Ease of access

These contrasts with features that make traditional art expensive e.g.:

  • Authenticity
  • Provenance
  • Condition
  • Historical significance
  • Popularity of the artist
  • Recognition

One might wonder what these mean for artists. NFTs proves to be a great tool for artists to exhibit their work and receive compensation. The hype surrounding NFTs has created a new market. It has given many artists a platform, which hitherto they would have had no access. Furthermore, artists continue to receive compensation even after an NFT is sold. Each time their digital art is sold to a new buyer, the artist may receive a percentage. If the work becomes extremely popular, this means that the artist can receive compensation several times in the future.

One of the core differences between NFT art and traditional art is that it is much easier to verify the ownership and authenticity of an NFT. Blockchain ledgers offer transparent details about the trades of any given NFT since its creation to anyone with an internet connection. All it takes is to ascertain the contract address of the artwork to verify that it is an authentic item. The idea that uniqueness is what makes digital art valuable may sound absurd, but think of it this way: anyone can buy a perfect print of the Mona Lisa that is visually indistinguishable from the real one. Howbeit, only one museum in the world owns the original — and that physical piece of art is priceless.

Crypto art (or NFT art) represents a new artistic landscape that uses the blockchain to confer uniqueness and digital scarcity. Previously, digital artwork and content could easily be replicated an infinite number of times, making it impossible to build the perception of scarcity that traditional art enjoys. This concept has created a completely new market almost overnight. Content creators can now specify what version of their work is the “real” one. They also have the freedom to create 100, or 1,000, or however many limited edition copies of their work, without having to worry about forgeries.

Notable Variations

For digital asset investors, NFTs are a new speculative asset they can buy and hold with the hope that its value will one day increase so they can sell it for a tidy profit. There is a big market for trading NFTs, which has significantly contributed to the rising market value of crypto art and the popularity of NFT Marketplaces such as DigiRack. Traditional art uses physical certificates of authenticity, which are often signed by the artist himself. As with any physical document, these too are threatened by frauds and scams.

Another core difference between traditional and digital arts lie in the aspect of preservation. Traditional art needs to be kept under a specific temperature and lighting, whereas digital art has no need for this. For example, DaVinci’s Salvatore Mundi is not in its best shape and it has undergone numerous repairs, being more than 500 years old. Ever since the creation of our world, art has been a status symbol for the rich but they can only expose the art in a gallery or their own homes, where not so many would see it. However, with the internet anyone who owns an NFT can post it on any social media channel for the whole world to see. Some NFTs, such as Bored Ape Yacht Club, also serve as entry tickets to exclusive parties, which are often frequented by celebrities.

NFT art is not yet as regulated as traditional art and some may see opportunities for illegal activities, such as money laundering. While NFTs have all transactions registered on the blockchain, it is hard to verify the identity of the seller and buyer. Traditional art requires physical signatures and documents, making it much harder to use in money laundering even though some still employ it as a means to evade tax.

Using the power of the internet, NFT artists can reach much larger mass and potential buyers than any traditional art house. NFTs benefit from the massive reach of NFT marketplaces such as DigiRack, while traditional art pieces are sold through physical auctions that have a much smaller reach. While anyone can create an NFT and become an artist, traditional artists still require vetting from industry experts before selling their first piece for considerable sums. Again, the traditional industry has hierarchical levels and only a few are recognised as artists during their lifetime, while the NFT hype can propel anyone in front of huge audiences ready to buy digital art.

Furthermore, while digital artists may be entitled to a part of any future resale of their art, traditional artists may not receive any royalties after the first sale of their art. Conclusively, NFT art has the potential to transform the creative industry. However, it is barely in its infancy, and the world is witnessing the start of something that will feel ordinary to future generations. The space is getting more crowded by the minute — but not all NFT art is good! While NFT art possesses clear attributes over traditional art, such as a detailed history of sellers and buyers, it is hard to declare one as being better than the other is. They each serve a different and specific purpose, and occasionally these purposes overlap ━ status symbols and artists.

At DigiRack, we are excited to see more from the NFT art space, but that does not mean that traditional art will lose popularity. Only time will tell which one is better or how they can both aid our world, but it is certain that the world needs better artists and more great art. Deciding which platform works best for you largely comes down to your specific needs. Try considering factors like security, fees and commissions, ease of use, copyright protection and royalties. These factors are what mostly drives users’ decision on the best choice of platform. This is why our marketplace has prioritised these features in addressing each user’s need. Crypto art may seem surreal and almost absurdly futuristic, but it is here to stay. It is an innovative medium for crypto artists to maintain scarcity and bring their work straight to their audiences. Art is a constantly evolving industry, and crypto art is without a doubt the next step forward.

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